Of more than 4,000 patients for whom data on chest pain -- called angina -- was available, 29 percent of those with stents had persistent chest pain compared with 33 percent of those on medical therapy alone, Brown found.
There is no data that stenting patients with stable heart disease reduces the risk of dying or having a heart attack, Brown said.
"This is not to say no one will need stenting, but only about a third of patients treated initially with medical therapy will need to cross over to stenting," he said.
"People shouldn't blindly agree to have procedures unless the doctor can tell them that there is a documented benefit" in quality or length of life, he said.
Quality of life involves relief of chest pains, he said. If patients on the best medication still have chest pain that is unacceptable to them, stenting becomes appropriate, Brown said.
Medical therapy included aspirin to prevent clotting, beta blockers and ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers to control blood pressure, and statins to lower cholesterol, the researchers noted.
"If you go the medical therapy route, it means the patient has to be followed in an outpatient environment to see how they are responding to the medical therapy, and that takes time and effort that doesn't reimburse very well," he said. "That's part of the equation that drives putting in a stent rather than following the patient on medical therapy."
Dr. James Blankenship, a spokesman for the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, wasn't surprised by the study.
"This is largely old news and many interventional cardiologists are avoiding the pitfalls that the authors are pointing out," he said. "In fact, the volume of interventions among Medicare patients has gone down 18 percent between 2005
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